Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Farewell, Pete Seeger. Peace Be With You.

I woke up this morning to the sad news that Pete Seeger, America's folk singer and man of peace, has died.

He was 94 years old, so we should be grateful that we had him with us for so long.  He was a man whose presence was timeless and inspiring, and the truth is, we needed him.  We need him still.

He was more than a singer/songwriter, although in his case that would have been enough.  He was a man of courage, unafraid to face down fancy fools and demagogues.   In the 1950s he was hauled before Joe McCarthy's Red-scare witch-hunters and branded a communist--a brand he neither confirmed nor denied until much later, when he said he had been a communist for a time but dropped out.  He never failed to remind those who asked that it was never illegal in this country to be a communist.  The young ones were, as you might imagine, surprised to hear it.

He was jailed, blacklisted, and was sentenced to 10 years for contempt of Congress. (That last one was overturned, but he was able to retain the bragging rights.)
During the communist witch-hunts of the early Fifties, however, the Weavers were blacklisted, resulting in canceled concert dates and the loss of their recording contract with Decca Records. Under congressional subpoena to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Seeger asserted his First Amendment rights, scolding the committee, “I am not going to answer any questions as to my associations, my philosophical or my religious beliefs, or how I voted in any election or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked.” - See more at: http://rockhall.com/inductees/pete-seeger/bio/#sthash.Tltp8l5j.dpuf
 In 1955, Seeger was subpoenaed to testify in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He was famously uncooperative, citing the First Amendment (freedom of speech and association) instead of the Fifth (freedom from self-incrimination) when he refused to answer, because he believed there was nothing "incriminating" about knowing communists or being one. Clubs and TV shows canceled the Weavers' bookings, their recording company voided their contract, and their records vanished from stores and radio airplay. Seeger was indicted for contempt of Congress, and sentenced to ten concurrent one-year terms in prison (a sentence he didn't serve, as it was overturned on appeal). Seeger and his band were blacklisted, and for years worked only in tiny clubs willing to take the risk of hiring them.
Pete never failed to let us know he was one of us.  His concerts became one big sing-along, where everyone joined in and became his back-up singers.  (That could be because Pete himself said as a singer he made a pretty good song-writer, but his audiences loved it.)

We knew the words to his songs by heart and understood where the words came from.   He cared about the least of us.  He was a union man.  He was a man of peace who would not submit.

Solidarity forever, Mr. Seeger.  It was a privilege to be on this planet with you.  You will live on.  We'll make sure of that.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ted Nugent: Obama is Still President. I've Let The Country Down

Let's face it, there is no shaming that bad boy, Teddy "The Nuge" Nugent, the "Motor City Madman",  proud draft-dodging gun nut, NRA spokesman, and Grand Champeen Obama hater.  He thrives on badboyism.  It has made him what he is today.  One look at him tells me he ain't gonna listen to no mamas, so why waste my time?

But it's okay if I make fun of him, right?  Because that's what mamas do when the kids go off the deep end and think they're too cool for school.  Usually the kids in question are still what we might consider kids and have a chance to outgrow it, but, as in Teddy's case, mavericks do cut loose and stay loose.  Sometimes they get lost in their own kid persona and never grow up. It's sort of sad, watching them, but they never stop thinking they're pretty damned cute, so what's the harm?

So here's what that bad Teddy has done this time.  In his agony over not actually having the power after all to unseat/destroy the sitting president, Barack Hussein Obama, and all the stray Democrats (a power he, sadly, truly believed he had--see first sentence below), he's gone back to his old Devil's Thesaurus to find just the right words to settle this thing once and for all.  At the 2014 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT) last week, he took a moment to tell a reporter for Guns.com what he thought of Barack Obama. That Obama is one bad dude. He is, in fact, according to Teddy, a "sub-human mongrel."
Here's Teddy:
I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist, raised communist, educated communist, nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America. I am heartbroken but I am not giving up. I think America will be America again when Barack Obama, [Attorney General] Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, [Sen.] Dick Durbin, [former New York City Mayor] Michael Bloomberg and all of the liberal Democrats are in jail facing the just due punishment that their treasonous acts are clearly apparent.

So a lot of people would call that inflammatory speech. Well I would call it inflammatory speech when it's your job to protect Americans and you look into the television camera and say what difference does it make that I failed in my job to provide security and we have four dead Americans. What difference does that make? Not to a chimpanzee or Hillary Clinton, I guess it doesn't matter.

I don't know how Hillary got in there.  I would think it's because she could be a contender--a Democratic contender--in 2016, and that would be bad for his guys. But he's a Hillary-hater from way back.  At a 2007 concert he told Hillary to ride his machine gun and called her a worthless bitch.  (He had some choice words for Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein at that same concert, but you'll understand if I pass on posting them here. )

So.  Two things happened that gave Teddy the idea that he might be more than an old rock star--that he might actually have a future in galvanizing Americans to jump into rabbit holes and view the world in a topsy-turvy setting having nothing to do with reality:  The NRA gave him a position on their board, and Texas Tea Party congressman Steve Stockman got him a seat at last year's State of the Union address.

That last gig thrilled Teddy no end:

He had a good career going there for a while as a singer.  ("Cat Scratch Fever")  He could carry a tune and everything. ("Cat Scratch Fever")  But it could be that the crowds stopped coming (just guessing) and if he wanted to stay in the spotlight he had to find a new gig.

But what's a Medicare-eligible guy to do when he has his big 'ol patriot heart set on saving the country from assorted Muslims and Communists and uppity wimmin but his only talents lean more toward screaming and cussing and prevaricating while making goofy faces and toting big-ass guns?

Beats me.  I'm just glad he's not my kid.

Friday, January 10, 2014

It's the Ego, Stupid

Yesterday New Jersey governor Chris Christie took 108 minutes out of his busy schedule to do something so unprecedented there wasn't a pundit anywhere in the country who wasn't on top of it, who didn't have an opinion about it, and who, almost to a person, saw it as the beginning of the end of that lovable bully.  No White House for you, big guy!

So what happened yesterday was that Chris Christie set up a press conference and stood before reporters for more than an hour and a half to apologize, sort of, for the colossal, politically incorrect, on-purpose screw-up that caused the week-long closing off portions of the George Washington Bridge at Fort Lee, N.J.

The apology for the undisputed fact that his own aides had orchestrated the closing was short and sweet compared to the hand-wringing that followed while Chris Christie, the ultimate victim here, explained to reporters how he felt when he discovered that he had been betrayed by members of his trusted staff.

He felt sad. He was sad.  He was so sad:
"I'm sad. I'm sad. That's the predominant emotion I feel right now is sadness, sadness that I was betrayed by a member of my staff, sadness that I had people who I entrusted with important jobs who acted completely inappropriately, sad that that's led the people of New Jersey to have less confidence in the people that I've selected. The emotion that I've been displaying in private is sad."

The initial blow-up was over the vindictive phony shutting down of toll booths and portions of the insanely busy George Washington bridge.  It ended up causing days of needless chaos for what turned out to be an odd game of supposed retaliation by Christie's staff against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing their guy in the last election.  Their guy, Chris Christie!  That guy!

But after all that, their guy Christie, true to form, felt nobody else's emotion but his own.  It's true he mentioned the bridge fiasco a few times, but the main thrust of the news conference was about Christie's own strong feeling of betrayal.  Yes, the buck stops there, and yes, that mess on the bridge was awful, but how can he get across to the reporters in the room just how affected he was by his staff's actions against him? It was as if the chaos caused by the phony toll booth and lane closings was nothing more than collateral damage: The real story was Et tu, Brute?

(By the way, Rachel Maddow made a pretty convincing argument last night that the traffic jam vendetta wasn't really over the mayor but was, rather, against New Jersey Democrats who wouldn't give the Gov what he wanted when it came to Supreme Court justices.  It's all about the timing.) 

Egos are a dime a dozen in politics.  Every politician has one, and usually it's a doozy.  It has to be, in order to go through that whole election process.  When you go into it knowing hundreds if not thousands if not millions of people are going to hate you and make fun of you and try to bring you down in the process, something besides the thought of doing good deeds is driving you.

If, once elected, politicians could check their egos at the door, let's face it--they wouldn't be nearly as entertaining.  The quiet drudges get no press, and that's a fact. Gov. Christie has built a pretty good career on being a callous blowhard while showing signs every now and then of an underlying humanity, often enough to be forgiven for his theretofore signature rudeness.  (See Hurricane Sandy)  But it's Christie's ego that gets him every time.  In the end, it's always all about him.

  A healthy ego can be a marvelous thing (See Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, FDR, Martin Luther King, Jesus), but in the wrong heads it's the malignancy that will be the death of those folks yet.  Witness John Edwards, Anthony Weiner, Thaddeus McCotter, Herman Cain. . .

Chris Christie went to Fort Lee yesterday to meet with the mayor there and apologize personally, even though the mayor all but begged him not to come.  He went anyway, because that's who he is.  He gives orders, he doesn't take them.

But he didn't give the order to mess with the toll booths and set up the cones of artifice on the George Washington Bridge.  Because what do you think he is--stupid?